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Westmoreland

Penn Township grant will help absorb costs of stormwater improvements

Stephen Huba
| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, 7:03 p.m.
A drainage culvert on Hyland Drive in Penn Township, photographed Dec. 27, 2018.
Jacob Tierney | Tribune-Review
A drainage culvert on Hyland Drive in Penn Township, photographed Dec. 27, 2018.

A new state grant will help Penn Township in its ongoing struggle to overcome the effects of stormwater on the storm sewers of the Harrison Park neighborhood.

The Growing Greener grant of $70,000, awarded by the state Department of Environmental Protection, will go toward the design, permitting, surveying and management of the Harrison Park stormwater system improvement project.

Specifically, the grant will help fund an environmental portion of the project that is concerned with reducing the amount of sediment that stormwater runoff is depositing into Brush Creek, said Alex Graziani, township manager.

“Runoff can be a form of pollution and can harm the health of streams,” Graziani said.

The township is proposing to convert two existing stormwater detention basins into dry detention basins, which will improve the management of stormwater in the Brush Creek watershed, the DEP said.

Graziani said the DEP grant covers about 10 percent of the overall cost of the Harrison Park project. The township plans to apply for a larger amount, either a loan or grant, from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or PennVEST.

Problems addressed by the project go back decades and have become a perennial concern for homeowners. The homes in Harrison Park, a neighborhood of the unincorporated Harrison City, were built in the 1950s and did not have the stormwater controls of today, Graziani said.

“We’re having to go back to older parts of the township to address these stormwater issues,” he said. “The system we have in there now is not designed for the typical flows that we’re seeing.”

Anytime a “moderate to severe” storm hits the township, properties in those older areas flood, said Bill Roberts, community development director.

The township already made some stormwater sewer improvements in the 1990s, but more are needed. “Hopefully, this is going to address the remaining portion of the issues,” Roberts said, noting that about a third of the homes in Harrison Park will be affected.

Penn Township has eight priority capital projects aimed at addressing stormwater problems. Doing them all would cost more than $3 million.

In December, township commissioners voted to raise taxes by 2 mills to cover capital construction projects, including flood relief. Residents of Country Court Drive and Hyland Road, two other areas plagued by flooding, spoke at the budget meeting.

The tax hike will raise about $500,000 a year. The township hopes to get state grants to cover some of the work, including major stormwater improvements on Hyland Road and Harrison Park.

Graziani said the township’s goal is to have the Harrison Park project completed by the summer of 2020.

“Through partnerships like this between state and local governments, we’re helping communities become more resilient to weather future storm events,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Staff writer Jacob Tierney contributed. Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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